Thursday, April 26, 2007

Honoring Ben Linder

clipped from

Outrage channeled into activism

Event honors Ben Linder and his work with rural Nicaraguans

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Given the good works inspired by Ben Linder, it's fitting he will be remembered Friday in an event marking the 20th anniversary of his death.

Linder, 27, of Portland, was killed April 28, 1987 in Nicaragua by U.S.-backed, anti-Sandinista forces while helping build a hydroelectric plant as a volunteer in a rural northern region near the Honduran border.

Ben Linder (left) working on his first hydroelectric project in Nicaragua.

His death -- at the time, he was the only American killed by the Contras -- galvanized opposition to U.S. intervention in Nicaragua. The attention helped raise awareness of the Contra war and its human costs after Linder became a victim of U.S. efforts to help overthrow the elected Sandinista government.

In the months after Linder was killed, family members -- mother, Elisabeth; father, David (he died in 1999); and siblings, John and Miriam -- and four friends and co-workers from Nicaragua scattered across the U.S. in a 7-month speaking tour. It launched a campaign that raised $800,000 over 11 years.

Yet, even as political events that surrounded Linder's death fade with time, family members are committed to a belief that Linder's life -- and death -- is as relevant today as it was two decades ago.

"We want to share Ben's example because we think it's a good one," John Linder said.

"He knew he was in a dangerous situation, and he decided to stay because he identified with the people he was working with. And that's something that speaks in many ways to the deepest values of most Americans, who would like to do something to help others and don't often get the chance to do it on as, perhaps, large a stage as Ben."

Elisabeth Linder said the remembrance of her son's death is community-based and internationally centered, citing work in Nicaragua by Green Empowerment, a Portland-based nonprofit.

Elisabeth Linder, mother of Ben, and her son John will be part of a remembrance Friday marking the 20th anniversary of Ben's death. "I love to talk about Ben because he was such a positive character," Elisabeth says. "He was fun and funny."

"It's considerably more than the family," she said. "No. 1, it's the fact that the work in Nicaragua continues . . . and makes a difference there. That people continue to be dedicated down there. The foundation, after we did the fundraising, was then taken over by Green Empowerment. And their work has expanded beyond Nicaragua."

Money raised by family and friends helped build several projects in the Jinotega region of Nicaragua where Linder was killed. Among them is a 230-kilowatt hydroelectric plant finished in 1994 in San Jose de Bocay.

Earlier this year, a 930-kilowatt plant was completed in El Bote. The $3 million project will provide electricity for 12,000 people when it begins operation. Once a development loan is paid off in about 13 years, the plant is expected to generate $250,000 in yearly revenue by selling surplus power.

In Portland, Susan Bloom administers the Ben Linder Scholarship Fund of Oregon. Each year since 2002, the $1,500 award has helped send at least one Portland Community College engineering student to a two-week program in Tlaxco, Mexico.

"They teach many of the things that Ben Linder was working for as an engineer: appropriate technology and stewardship of the land," Bloom said.

Green Empowerment, a Portland-based nonprofit, works in Nicaragua with Atder-BL, or Association of Rural Development Workers-Benjamin Linder. Atder-BL coordinates and oversees the Linder-inspired hydroelectric plants and other projects, including installation of drinking water systems and protection of watersheds being built in the region.

The Linders are especially grateful to Rebecca Leaf, who worked with Ben Linder in Nicaragua. She has been there since as the driving force behind completion of the work Linder started, as well as overseeing new projects.

"She's made this her life and under incredibly trying conditions," said John Linder.

Those projects also have been central to Niko Kozobolidis, a Vancouver, B.C.-based civil engineering consultant who has worked with Atder-BL the past 20 years. Kozobolidis said Linder's legacy "probably has a lot to do with his family, and also his individual spirit and the foundation he started with, which I think was a lot of courage, determination and love."

Kozobolidis said he met Linder via phone conversation only, including making arrangements to join Linder and others in June 1987 to work on projects in Nicaragua. He is involved in ongoing projects, communicating with Leaf regularly, and has made nearly a dozen trips to Nicaragua, staying at least five weeks and up to 10 months.

John Linder said the 20th anniversary remembrance is politically significant also.

"Today, more than ever, U.S. foreign policy is identified with invasions, interventions, torture, denial of sovereignty to other people, international bullying, rejection of international agreements. And Ben's story helps to show that, for those who think that Iraq is just a well-intentioned attempt at democracy gone wrong, it's very important that they gain the larger picture of U.S. foreign policy."

Still, John Linder said, his brother's efforts were grounded in basic values and needs.

"Ben's work in Nicaragua was based on the idea that all human beings have the right to peace, to sovereignty and to a clean glass of drinking water and an electric light."

Wade Nkrumah: 503-294-7627; wadenkrumah@

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


clipped from

Posted by Richard Lacayo

"Silence is so accurate." — Mark Rothko


No. 14, 1960/Mark Rothko — SFMOMA © Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Saturday, April 14, 2007

"TECOTOSH:" Gateway to PSU's Maseeh School of Engineering and Computer Science

Installed: March 2006.
Dimensions: 130' x 40' x 40'.
Materials: Stainless steel truss, laminated dichroic glass, stainless steel cables and hardware. Aluminum light housings. Up and down lights.
(Click on Image to Enlarge)

Engineers: Bob Grummel and Grant Davis.
Project Manager and Construction Drawings: Oanh Tran.
Project Administrator: Arleen Daugherty.
Lighting Consultant: Craig Marquardt.
Metal Fabrication: Albina Pipe Bending, Portland, OR.
Glass Fabrication: Haefker Studio, Portland, OR.
Architect: ZGF, Portland, OR.
Photography: Ed Carpenter, Bruce Forster.

Friday, June 30, 2006
Either close up or far away, Ed Carpenter's "Tecotosh" is a sight. The public artwork looks like a series of huge knitting needles poking through part of a roller-coaster track. Or the skeletal remains of a prehistoric dinosaur.
Made of stainless steel, glass, aluminum and other materials, the recently finished "Tecotosh" -- the title combines the first two letters from each of the four engineering principles, tension, compression, torsion and sheer -- is one long, bending chain buttressed by tripods that are separate poles assembled together.
There's a reason that Carpenter, 59, is Portland's most successful and perhaps busiest public artist, one who has made more than 130 public artworks around the world since 1973. In a plaza on the 1900 block of Southwest Fourth Avenue, "Tecotosh," like many of Carpenter's public works, isn't grandiose or attention seeking. It's a modest sculptural wonder that's a testament to working with the limits and ambitions of a space, not above them.
The initial plans for "Tecotosh" suggested something more ostentatious, however. The sculpture, which cost $240,000 and was administered by the Oregon Art Commission and Portland State University, was intended to be a regal entrance to the university's Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science, as well as a gesture to nearby Lovejoy Fountain.
The pointed, sloping truss acknowledges the fountain but it's hardly a grand entrance for the college. Much of the campus' critical mass, for example, is two or three blocks west of Southwest Fourth Avenue, a thoroughfare for northbound traffic. While driving, it's easy to miss the sculpture and the engineering buildings on the east side of the street.
And though the buildings and the sculpture were intended to anchor life between the plaza's two buildings at 1900 and 1930 S.W. Fourth Ave., there isn't much to moor, except a Taco Del Mar outlet in the latter building. This is an enclave for the studious pursuit of engineering.
Still, the plaza's modest symbolic power doesn't fall on Carpenter. He's simply conceived a public artwork that fits into this unspectacular nest of buildings, a sculpture that doesn't attempt to eclipse its surroundings.
On those terms, the sculpture is yet another beautiful, collaborative design and engineering effort carried out by Carpenter and his dedicated administrative and installation teams, which include Oanh Tran, Arleen Daugherty, John Rogers, Hanns Haefker and Craig Marquardt.
"Scale is the most important thing," says Carpenter, who is working on a number of other projects, including a 45-meter-high steel sculpture of a flower in Belfast, Northern Ireland. "Everything else is wrong if you get the scale wrong."
At about 35 feet tall and 130 feet long, "Tecotosh" is impressive but doesn't dominate. The mostly stainless steel chain structure and cables punctured by tripods is a durable homage to engineering, made to weather the sun, rain and harsh elements. Different elements of the structure embody tension, compression, torsion and sheer -- but don't work too hard to figure out what happens where. You may have to be an engineering wonk to get that by just looking.
Carpenter has gone beyond making a nod to science and engineering. He's animated the plaza with the theme of wonder through playful, keen design. With its intersecting weave of chain and rods, "Tecotosh" looks like a tether that's about to unleash coiled force into either building.
Carpenter has also embedded bits of laminated dichroic glass and lightboxes beneath the truss. At night, the lightboxes transform the sculpture, offering a touch of mystery and majesty to an otherwise plain area.
The sculpture may not be the most brilliant work in a career full of artistic highs, such as his breathtaking glass atrium at the Justice Center in downtown Portland. But in its emphasis on modesty over individual daring, the work is testimony to Carpenter's enduring appeal and his willingness to suspend artistic ego and pre-conceived ideas about the public art process.
"One problem with public art is that it frequently is inductive, not deductive," says Carpenter. "It addresses an idea rather than a space. I'm trying to address a space and find meaning later in that journey."

Friday, April 13, 2007

Professor John Damis Talks at RAPSU Meeting April 12, 2007

At the RAPSU general membership meeting on Thursday, April 12, 2007 Dr. John Damis was the guest speaker. Dr. Damis is s professor of Political Science and International Studies. He is also the director of the Middle East Study Center. He earned an AB in history at Harvard College (1962); an AM in Middle East Studies at Harvard University (1964); and his Ph.D. in international relations at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (1970). He has worked for the Department of State (1975-77) and the United Nations (1993-94). His publications include four books and monographs and over thirty articles and chapters on the politics and international relations of the Middle East and North Africa.

Dr. Damis gave a very organized talk devoting 20 minutes to current conditions in Lebanon and 20 minutes to current conditions in Iran. There was a lively discussion period for another 20 minutes concerning aspects of his talk and other topics such as Iraq and Afghanistan.